Kansas Builds Big Lead, Falls in Heartbreaker to Texas A&M

LAWRENCE, Kan. – In a sea of pink accompanied by the traditional Crimson and Blue, the University of Kansas volleyball team sprinted out to two-set lead against Texas A&M, Saturday evening at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center, but was unable to hold on as the Jayhawks fell to the Aggies, 25-14, 25-19, 25-27, 22-25, 13-15.

For the sixth-straight season Kansas hosted the annual “Jayhawks for a Cure” fundraiser. Pledge donations were taken before and during Saturday’s match to benefit the KU Cancer Center and Lawrence Memorial Hospital. In this year’s edition, nearly 800 fans were treated to a five-set battle between the Jayhawks and the Aggies.

Unfortunately for the Jayhawk faithful, a 2-0 lead turned into a heartbreaking 3-2 loss, despite winning the stat war in nearly every category. Kansas (12-5, 0-4) posted more kills, digs, service aces and blocks, all while posting fewer errors than Texas A&M (14-4, 3-2).

“Our only choice is to bounce back,” head coach Ray Bechard said. “Tonight is devastating, it’s heartbreaking, but there is a lot of tough five game losses throughout the country and it’s how you respond. We will respond.”

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc led the Jayhawks with a near perfect performance on Saturday. Her 16 kills tied her career-high as she swung for a .556 attack percentage – the best on the floor. Her four aces marked a season high, just one shy of her all-time best.

Senior outside hitter Allison Mayfield led the team with 19 kills while racking up a career-best 18 digs, good for her sixth double-double of the year. Freshmen Sara McClinton and Chelsea Albers also chipped in career-best games as McClinton’s 12 kills tied her career best, while Albers’ 16 digs broke her previous personal best.

As a team, Kansas posted 85 digs, 11 more than the Aggies, led by a double-digit effort by four different Jayhawks. Sophomore Brianne Riley led with 22, while Mayfield (18), Albers (16) and sophomore Kara Wehrs (11) also hit double figures. Jarmoc and fellow middle blocker Tayler Tolefree each posted six blocks on Saturday to bulk up the front-line defense. As a unit, Kansas put up 12.0 blocks as a team. The Aggies posted half as many.

In the first set, after being tied 6-6, Kansas used a 5-0 run to build an early lead, which they maintained for the remainder of the set. The Jayhawks closed the set with a Jarmoc service ace giving them the set, 25-14. Jarmoc and McClinton teamed up for four kills apiece in the opening set, as Jarmoc swung for an impressive .800. In the second set, both teams struggled to build a significant lead, until the Jayhawks used a 5-0 run to close out the set 25-19.

The run started with a kill from Mayfield, who racked up four kills in the set. Tolefree led the Jayhawks on defense, combining for 5 blocks in the set, while Riley led the team with seven digs, which matched her first set total. In the third set, Texas A&M jumped out to an early lead, forcing an early Kansas timeout. The Jayhawks came out of the timeout strong, with a string of kills from Jarmoc, who had a total of five in the set, with a .714 attack percentage.

A momentum-changing block from Jarmoc and Kara Wehrs midway through the set, fueled a KU run, which would tie the set at 17. The set would remain close through the end, until three straight points gave Texas A&M the set, 27-25. The Aggies jumped out to a 13-9 lead in the fourth set, forcing the Jayhaws to take a timeout. Similar to the last set, the Jayhawks came out of the break strong, putting together three straight points to bring the set within one, 13-12. The set would go back and forth, until a Texas A&M late rally, which gave them a 23-20 lead.

The Jayhawks defense responded with a huge block from Jarmoc, to pull KU within two points, 21-23. However, this did not deter the Aggies, as they would pull away to win the set, 25-22.

In the fifth set, the teams played back and forth, until a 4-0 run, with two kills from Mayfield gave the Jayhawks an early 9-6 lead. However, the Aggies would respond with a 3-0 run of their own, to tie the game at nine and force a KU timeout. The Jayhawks answered once again out of the timeout, with a huge kill from Jarmoc, who had three kills in the set on a .750 attack percentage. The Aggies would kill the KU momentum, with a 3-0 run to get a 12-10 lead, until a service error would kill the rally. The Aggies took the final set, 15-13.

Kansas hits the road again for the next two matches. The Jayhawks will travel to Columbia, Mo., to face rival Missouri on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Next Saturday, KU heads to Norman, Okla., for its first meeting of the season with nationally ranked Oklahoma.